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North End and North Adams teams at home plate prior to Game #2 at Puopolo Park

A good thing never gets old or boring, even for those who have participated time and time again! I can attest to that personally being part of the LaFesta Baseball Exchange Program between North Adams Mass and the North End for the last 27 years.  This weekend, our friends from the Berkshires traveled down Route 2 to Boston’s North End to enjoy friends, food, the feast, Faneuil Hall, the Zip Line and BASEBALL!

The players and coaches from both sides had just dueled in the Berkshires two weekends ago and now were going to  pick up where they left off to play again at Puopolo Park.

While playing their hearts out on the field, a friendship is created between players who never met before this two weekend extravaganza.  Sharing dinners and lunches, a breakfast, even a pick up basketball game at Polcari playground, these two teams became part of the longest baseball exchange program for this age group (12 to 15) on the east coast, maybe beyond.  What started out some 28 years ago as a one game road trip to the far end of the state by a group of North End baseball players, has now seen over 800 players participate in this extraordinary program.

MVP’s: Henry Sneizick (L – North Adams) and Joseph Bova (R – North End) with George Canales (Middle) – whom the MVP trophy is named after

The constant in this adventure have been George Canales and his family in North Adams and JR in the North End.  Of course, with help along the way from many people, especially John Fiumara, Joe Sgarano, Carl Ameno, Aaron Michlewitz, George Hadaya, Dom Dicenso and Ralph Martignetti and his family, John Lipa, Tony Abussi, Kevin Hamstead, George Beckwith and several others – as I am sure I missed a few unintentionally!  And of course great support from their families over the years as well.

When this all started, I had no children, I was not married, I still could coach and I had hair! George’s youngest son Jason, tagged along with his Dad, now he is married and has a son who is dying to play with the big guys!

10 Year Old Giulia Genatossio Singing the National Anthem

It’s amazing the life long friendship that has been created through the love of the game of baseball.  Parents, siblings, players, volunteers, come back to the games each year to say hello to George or JR, visit with their old coaches and give a big hug to Nancy (George’s wife of 50 Years!!)

We were blessed with great weather even though we had to cancel, then un-cancel, Saturday’s game under the threat of rain.  Baseball reined supreme as two fantastic games were played in the North End this weekend, with each team taking one apiece.

As the teams packed up and had their lunch, I had a few minutes to reflect on the whole situation and I am totally amazed at what this has all become – a love of a game, a love of friends and family, and a commitment to make it all keep going for many years to come!

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